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FCC Approves New Broadband Mapping Plan

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March 21, 2008

FCC Approves New Broadband Mapping Plan

By Raju Shanbhag, TMCnet Contributor

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has finally responded to the criticisms about its broadband measurements and voted to approve a broadband mapping plan. This plan would provide a more granular look at the availability of broadband and would break down broadband availability by speed across the country.

The new plan would measure broadband availability by Census tract, a geographic area that's typically significantly smaller than a Zip Code. There will be five speed tiers in its upcoming broadband reports, where the lowest tier is 200K bps to 768K bps and the fastest tier more than 6M bps.  
And the response to the new step by FCC (News - Alert) has been mixed. Says Gigi Sohn, Public Knowledge's president and co-founder, “The commission today presented a mixed message to the public. It is a mystery why the commission chose to issue this report when, mere moments later, the commission admitted the inadequacy of the information by starting the process to update the data collection on broadband. While the FCC should be commended for recognizing the need to change long-outdated definition of broadband it had been using, it should have also separated residential data from commercial data.”
Public Knowledge is an advocacy group focused on digital rights.
According to FCC, more than 99 percent of the U.S. postal Zip Codes have at least one broadband provider. But critics beg to differ and say that FCC's data is flawed as it counts a Zip Code as covered by broadband if one address in the Zip Code has service available. They also estimate that the agency has counted anything above 200K bps (bits per second) as broadband.
FCC note that in the first half of 2007, high-speed lines in the U.S. increased by 22 percent to 100 million lines. But many other nations have speeds of 25M bps to 100M bps for less money per month than U.S. customers pay for less than 10M bps.
Raju Shanbhag is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To see more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
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